Businesses must constantly adapt to economic conditions and market trends, and their evolution necessarily requires change. Leadership transitions, changes in organizational structure, technology implementations and technical equipment upgrades are among the most common changes that businesses must undertake.

Management of change (MOC) is a proven process designed to guide employees through a safe and seamless change process.

For some organizations, especially those in high-risk industries, health and safety risks are an inherent part of the job. Poor management of these risks can lead to incidents that put both employees and the future of the organization at risk, sometimes with serious consequences. On June 21, 2019, the Philadelphia Energy Solutions (PES) complex exploded, releasing 3,271 pounds of hydrofluoric acid into the atmosphere, sending pieces of shrapnel flying through the air and injuring five workers. The refinery promptly closed and filed for bankruptcy. The accident, which began with a pipe failure, could have been prevented if PES had followed inspection recommendations, according to the U.S. Chemical Safety Board. The PES incident stemmed from a failure to monitor operations and equipment and make the organizational changes necessary to ensure safety. It serves as an example of a management of change process that was poorly managed.

Most major incidents can be traced back to a failure in change management. Every organization that wants to control its risks can benefit from an effective change management.

What is Management of Change?

Management of change (MOC) is part of risk and safety management and fits into an organization’s broader environment, health and safety management framework. It is a systematic process to control environment, health and safety risks during organizational changes.

Businesses may use management of change processes after a merger or acquisition, when staffing levels change, when new materials are introduced or when equipment is updated. The process may be used for changes that are permanent or temporary or for changes made in the case of an emergency. Facilities that use hazardous chemicals and are subject to the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) process safety management regulations are also subject to OSHA requirements for management of change.

How to Ensure an Effective Management of Change Process

The concept for management of change dates back to the 1940s when social psychologist Kurt Lewin first developed a model for organizational changes. Lewin’s model included three stages: first, “unfreezing” current processes; then “changing” to new, safer procedures; and finally, “freezing” in those changes as part of normal operations.

Today, the management of change process has been expanded and refined to include several more steps:

  1. Initiation — Identifying what needs to be changed
  2. Pre-Approval — Gaining consent to evaluate potential changes
  3. Evaluation — Engaging stakeholders to consider the impact of change
  4. Approval — Permission to begin making the change
  5. Implementation — Making the change
  6. Pre-Startup Safety Review — Ensuring new processes are safe
  7. Approval to Startup — Getting authorization to resume normal operations with the change in place
  8. Post-Startup — Reviewing processes to ensure they are working as planned
  9. Closure — Signing off on the process and recording it

Effective change management processes require a set of tools and procedures, often built and run by the organizational change manager or change management teams. Due to the complexity of the process, and to ensure change occurs in a standardized method across a business, many companies choose to use management of change software to help streamline this process.

Key Takeaway

Management of Change is an essential part of environment, health and safety management strategies. The process ensures that companies stay compliant and promote safety while positioning themselves for continuous improvement and innovation.

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